Western nations are stepping up pressure on Syria: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia announced Tuesday that they were expelling Syrian diplomats of various ranks following the brutal massacre in Houla over the weekend.
The coordinated international move came as Arab League envoy Kofi Annan met the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, in Damascus. Annan reportedly "conveyed the grave concern of the international community about the violence in Syria" and the prospects for the implementation of his apparently failing six-point plan.
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London's Foreign Ministry said that the UK was expelling three Syrian diplomats over the deaths of 108 civilians in the embattled Homs province.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said that while there was "no unanimity on the United Nations Security Council for a military intervention, the international pressure on the regime of Syrian would continue to be increased."
Paris said it was expelling the Syrian ambassador, as means of increasing pressure on Damascus, amid the mounting violence by government forces against civilians and opposition members.
Bodies of some of the children massacred in Houla. (Photo: Reuters)
Almost simultaneously, Berlin, Madrid and Rome announced that they, too, were expeling the Syrian ambassadors.
Canada joined the diplomatic protest and announced that it was expelling the three remaining Syrian diplomats stationed in Ottawa.
Australia also expelled two Syrian diplomats, including the chief of the Syrian mission, on Tuesday and said it expected other countries to take similar action as part of an international response to the Houla massacre.
New pressure tacticsFrench President Francois Hollande said the move was coordinated in high-level discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"We decided on a certain number of ... pressure tactics to apply to Syria, including the expulsion." He said.
The UN Security Council on Monday has condemned the Houla massacre.
The aftermath of the Houla massacre. (Photo: Reuters)
Hollande also said that Paris would host a Friends of Syria meeting in early July in hope of devising a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said that the trio – a charge d'affaires and two other officials – were informed of the decision.
"We want to say unequivocally that this is completely unacceptable... and we want to condemn these actions," he said.
"The Syrian charge has again been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians are appalled by this massacre and we will pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account," Carr said.
"This is the most effective way we've got of sending a message of revulsion of what has happened in Syria," Carr told Australia's ABC News.
In a statement following Friday's massacre, Carr called the killings a "hideous and brutal crime" and said Australia would not engage with the Syrian government unless it abides by a UN ceasefire plan.
Reuters contributed to this report
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(AP and Reuters)